Process Improvement Partners


Tips and Tools for a More Effective Workplace

Who is Your Customer?

We are all customers. We want what we want, when we want it, at the level of quality we expect, in the proper quantity. We are the final say as to whether a business will thrive, survive, flounder, or die. The business must deliver to our expectations, or we will not continue to purchase products or services that they offer. 

It’s surprising how many businesses wrongly believe shareholders are their customer, rather than those who actually derive benefit from what they offer.

A key principle of Lean is that everything should be optimized to the benefit of the customer, and anything that doesn’t deliver value is considered waste and should be eliminated. 

It is therefore critical that you understand who your customer is, what is most important to them, and what they perceive as value.  

Identify Your Customer

Questions to consider to identify your customer(s):

  1. Do they pay for your product or service?

  2. Do they provide feedback about your product or service, and how it affects them directly?

  3. Do your actions directly influence their behaviors?

  4. Do they depend on you for the product or service that you deliver?

Sometimes, we need to look internally to identify our customer(s). For example, in a manufacturing plant, one department receives a product from another department. The receiving department is the customer of the delivering department, and requires the product to be the proper quantity, quality, and to arrive on schedule. Anything that deviates from this is waste and should be eliminated.

Likewise, the workers in the same manufacturing plant are the customers of the Leadership Team, who makes decisions on their behalf. Their families are also customers as strong business decisions keep paychecks rolling in.

What is Most Important to Your Customer

Once you have identified your customer(s), you then need to understand what they truly want from you or another provider. To find out, you can analyze market trends, speak to your Sales and Marketing departments, host focus groups, and/or go directly to your customers and find out. Oftentimes, customers may not be able to directly identify everything that they want, but with the proper questions, you should be able to get the heart of their issues. Consider these questions:

  1. What do you like about the product or service that we provide?

  2. What don’t you like about the product or service that we provide?

  3. What issue or need are you trying to solve with the product or service that we provide?

  4. What are we not providing that you wish we would provide?

  5. What changes would you make to our product or service that would make things better for you?

  6. What do you wish you could say to our CEO about the product or service that we provide?

It’s surprising how effective face to face communication can be with customers. It’s also surprising how few of us use this method to extract critical information from them. Most people appreciate the opportunity to have these conversations. Now let’s talk about value.

A Question of Value

If you have identified your customer and reviewed what’s most important to them, you should be close to answer how they define value. Value isn’t necessarily a monetary thing, but can be thought of as something that enhances the customer experience. Some examples include:

  1. Reduces time and/or effort

  2. Simplifies a task

  3. Enhances quality of life

  4. Makes them happy

  5. Keeps them safe and secure

  6. And the list goes on

Once you have identified your customer, what is most important to them, and how they define value, you are ready to attack and eliminate waste in your business. To understand more about waste, read the blog entitled, “The Eight Deadly Wastes.”